This week we have a double portion, Matot-Massei. These portions speak of the journeys of the children of Israel coming out of Egypt. Why is the word journeys plural here in the Torah? The answer is about the 42 encampments that were part of the journey from Egypt to the promised land. These were places where the people made camp and stayed until the Lord told them to pull up stakes and move on.
Sometimes we look at the long journey of our lives, our mission, our calling – the long timeline of our lives. And when we do, we often look at it as one long journey, but really it could be broken down into small milestones. I have told you before that I love the analogy of American football. There you are not thinking about the touchdown, you are thinking I have four downs to get ten yards so I can get another four to get another ten yards. That’s how I like to look at life.
Of course we have our long range goals, things that are way out in the future, but sometimes it is good to look at the small goals. I also teach in my Kosher Pastor course about my brother Josh and how he was a runner and was a competitor until a career ending injury in a high school basketball game. When he was a runner he told me that the hardest place to run was the beach because from the start you can see the finish line. Where we live the beach is so straight and flat that this is the case and he told me that can be discouraging because it looks and feels as if it will never end. He thinks it is much easier to run cross country where there are bends in the path and you can’t see what is coming up in the distance. You just have to get around this bend and up this hill, you have to take the journey in small increments.
That is what the children of Israel did and that’s what we need to do in life. Our lives are like the little encampments that Israel created on the way to the promised land. Sometimes we might see this as negative, might see these milestones or pauses as distractions. We might even see them as detours in our lives and might say to ourselves that we had in mind some other particular path. But as we know, sometimes God has a different path in mind and that distraction or detour is just a variance from what we had in mind. We have to remember that Hashem knows what he is doing and that is what we can learn from these journeys from Egypt to the promised land.
I really enjoyed studying this week from Rabbi Zalman of LIadi who said it like this – the word Egypt in the Hebrew language is mitzrayim. The actual meaning of the word is borders. something hemming us in, something that is maybe like a tightness, claustrophobic. But what the Lord wants us to do is to go to a place, as my local Rabbi says, of wide open spaces; a place with no borders or obstacles, a place that is not claustrophobic. He says that when the Torah says this is the journeys (plural) of them coming out of Egypt you will say “wait, wasn’t the journey from Egypt to Sukkot?” But no, we are told the journey of coming out of Egypt is a perpetual journey. We are constantly coming out of Egypt and into the wide open spaces.
The Rabbi would tell us that the idea of salvation, to the Jewish mind, is just that – freedom that is a wide open space. It is the opposite of mitzrayim, of Egypt. You my brothers and sisters, and I, are constantly coming out of Egypt. Let us not allow ourselves to be hemmed in, to be in a place of tightness. Let us not allow this world and it’s trappings to entrap us, and let us move forward into the wide open spaces that the word has for us.
I pray that this message has been a blessing and I pray all of God’s blessings for all of you.
Shalom and Kol Tuv
If you wish to learn with me, click on the link on this web site. My Kosher Pastor course leads into studying at yeshiva level at shuvu.tv.